Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Horse Slaughter

The ruckus that has emerged from every horse lover I know over FB and all across the internet, equestrian blogs, etc., about lifiting the ban for horse slaughter in the US is quite something else.  What makes horses so different than cows or chickens is their iconic symbolism they have provided for us in our country's development.  People are outraged over the legalization of horse slaughter and I would like to explain my opinion.

I am a lifelong horse lover, I spend tens of thousands of dollars a year to ensure my horses' (and the horses who belong to my clients) health, well-being and safety.  I care for every need... every physical, emotional, nutritional, educational, medicinal, psychological need... you name it.  I am a horse owner, trainer, riding instructor, coach, farrier, groom and clinician, and I personally have rescued or taken in unwanted horses more than I have ever purchased a horse, and rehabilitated them or re-educated and then re-homed to good homes or kept them personally.  I have had everything from OTTBs to geriatric warmbloods to ponies to BLM Mustangs to grade horses of unknown history to horses who nobody else could do anything with.  And I have held the heads of some of those horses as they were euthanized due to founder or puncture wounds through the skull.  I know the heartache of losing a horse, I have shed countless amounts of tears over the agony of such losses.  And I work 24-7-365 to care for these horses in my care without paid vacation or health benefits.  I do this because I want to do this and because I love it. 

So lest you think I haven't a heart, think again.

Yet, I am in 100% support of the legalization of horse slaughter.  How can this be, you ask?

It saddens me to know that horses are getting slaughtered.  Indeed it does.  It saddens me to put myself in their shoes, to be unwanted, uncared for, treated without kindness and have my life ended by someone else's hands without a say-so.

I have encountered thousands of horses in my career.  And most of these horses have had happy stories and successful careers.  But I have also come across the gross and unforgettable neglected ones, the ones who couldn't walk or stand due to gross malnutrition or injury, who were out in a small dirt enclosure without clean water or any edible food whatsoever.  I was one of those persons who helped physically hold up, along with six other adults, this starving horse to walk him across the street to my barn.  He was across the street the whole time in the neighbors' back yard, starving to death, and we never knew until one day by chance we happened to see him at exactly the right time through the bushes.  He was beyond skin and bones and could barely stand or walk.  We physically held up this horse and helped him move, step by painfully slow step, across the road into our property where he was finally properly cared for.

And this sort of thing is everywhere.  You people who are in outrage over slaughter; have you ever driven by one of these situations and wanted to end the lives of these miserable horses yourself?  It changes you.  It makes you realize the necessity of giving people an option to eliminate their unwanted horses.  And no, you can't save them all yourself.

I for one have done my part, and will continue to do my part, for rescues.  But many of you who would willingly put your name on a anti-slaughter petition won't go to an auction and take a horse off the slaughter-bound truck yourself because YOU KNOW how much risk there is and how much money it will take to rehabilitate one.  And if you won't, who will? 

Horse rescues across the US are full.  Horse rescues (some, not all) are some of the worst with cases of neglect because they simply cant afford the cost of care!  This is what happens when the supply exceeds the demand.  And unlike cars or other objects, they can't just be stored in warehouses. Obviously there are other answers out there for helping to not increase supply.  However, this is also assuming that people should be responsible and reasonable, and we know that just isn't always the case. 

And for those of you who have done one rescue, can you do two?  Or three?  Any more and you run the risk of not being able to adequately care for the needs of your animals yourself.

The bottom line is that people need a means, an effective, legal means and a right to choose how to dispose of their animals.  Having a vet humanely euthanize a horse costs money.  I know.  There aren't many places where you can properly or effectively bury a horse.  I know.  Having a horses' carcass hauled away or incinerated costs money.  Again, I know.  And trust me, very few people who do love their horse and want a humane means to end a horses life wouldn't go out and put a bullet behind the ear themselves.  Again, I know this.  I held a horse late one night whose owner ended his life with a shotgun due to a injury that could not be healed.  It's not that I'm an extra-tough person; it's because I knew it was the right and humane thing to do regardless of how painful it was to experience.  We as responsible owners need to be prepared to make these tough decisions, and to help the people who might not be responsible to also make the right decision.  And people who already don't have money to care for this horse in their backyard certainly can't afford to go down the road of euthanasia or incineration.

Where there is a law or ban, there is a way around the law or ban.  Last year statistics were shown that just as many horses were sold in the US for slaughter; however, they were shipped across the borders to our neighbors.  I don't know about you but I would think that having access to horse slaughter locally would cut down on a lot of this inhumane business we're always hearing about, especially in the hauling/shipping process.  And Canada and Mexico don't have near the regulations that we have in the US as far as where "humane" treatment is concerned.  Think about it. 

So make it available for them to sell their horse for meat value and we now have people who might do the responsible thing instead of leaving a horse to slowly die out in the backyard.  But if we make it illegal for these people then we sure as heck won't have anybody being responsible out there. 

Legalizing slaughter still won't completely solve the neglect issue, but it will certainly help.  For we all know that there are just sick, sick people out there who cannot do right by their own families and children, or even another human being, let alone an animal, regardless of what is legal or illegal.

If horse meat is legalized in the US it will also cut costs down on care for other pets and animals, such as zoos and dog food.

I never plan on eating horse meat myself.  If I were truly starving at any point later in life I might consider it, but as it stands now, I choose not to.  Horses are too close to my heart.  However, I can't afford to rescue any more horses right now and I can't tolerate the gross neglect I have seen growing due to the economy and the lack of means of disposal.

So I vote YES to the legalization, bottom line!

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